Ethiopia – The Context

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Ethiopia, formerly known as Abyssinia, is a land-locked republic in the Horn of Africa. To the north are Eritrea and Djibouti, Somalia lies to the east and south-east, Kenya is to the south and Sudan to the west.

Ethiopia covers an area of 472,000 sq. mi. (1.1million sq. km) and is the tenth largest country in Africa. It is twice as big as the state of Texas, five times the area of the UK or New Zealand or the size of France, Portugal and Spain all put together. The capital city is Addis Ababa, which lies at the heart of the country in the central highlands at a height of 7,500 ft. It is the third highest capital city in the world.



The current population is approximately 94 million (2013 est.), the second highest population of any country in Africa exceeded by only Nigeria. 44% of the population is under 15 years of age. There are many different tribes and people groups. It is estimated that over 70 languages are spoken.

Ethiopia is one of the world’s poorest nations with a GDP per head of around $414.


Ethiopia is one of the world’s poorest nations with a GDP per head of around $414. Average life expectancy is 57 years for men and 62 for women and infant mortality is 6%. The economy is predominantly agricultural and 84% of the population lives in rural areas. The Ethiopian highlands are very fertile and are criss-crossed by large rivers but many parts of the country, particularly in the east and north-east are prone to periodic rain failures and locust plagues so there is a constant threat of local famine.

Coffee accounts for 55% of Ethiopia’s exports and is estimated to occupy 25% of the population. The main crop grown for local consumption is tef, the grain used to make injera – the local staple food. Ethiopia is rich in mineral deposits and gold and iron ores have been mined since ancient times. The mineral deposits have not been commercially exploited as they are rather inaccessible. The main mineral mined is salt. Manufacturing in Ethiopia is almost completely based on the processing of agricultural products.



The vastness of the country, the variety of ethnic groups and languages, the lack of roads and communication infrastructures has led to largely isolated rural communities with little access to education facilities and health care services.


The government is committed to address the abject poverty it faces in a comprehensive and rapid manner through the adoption of the Sustainable Development Program (SDPRO) and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.